Science: Magic Rings
By Sandy Fleming
There's an entire world
just waiting to be explored in your very own backyard.
You can change your child's perspective and point of view with
this simple activity idea. Using inexpensive and readily available
materials, you can open your child's eyes to wonders! This activity
suitable for preschoolers and up. Younger children participate
supervision and assistance. Any number can enjoy it, making it
families, care providers, teachers, and children's group leaders.
activity has many names, but my favorite is "Magic Ring."
You will need a length
of string or yarn for each child or group. The exact
size is not really important, but two to four feet seems to work
may want to use smaller strings with younger or less experienced
Tie the ends of the string together to form a loop. In addition,
want to gather magnifying glasses, paper and pencils for sketching,
field guides with information about plants, rocks, and insects
Choose an open area of
grass or dirt and lay the circle of string on the
ground. The area enclosed by the string becomes a tiny world,
wonders and surprises just waiting to be discovered. Children
astounded by the variety of plants and creatures living within
rings." If available, use the magnifying glasses for closer
peeks at the
finds from within the circle. Be sure to stress to the kids that
living creatures, not to be uprooted or disturbed. Watching with
instead of hands will ensure that the plant and animal life within
remains healthy and whole.
Children can work alone
or in groups for this activity. I've found that
pairs of children do well at this. The children naturally take
positions around the circle and so view it from different perspectives.
Their viewing angle affects what they see and what they notice.
children are working with partners or in small groups, it is
them to compare their observations of the same space.
Use the idea as a starting
point for learning that is appropriate for your
children's age groups. Encourage language skills by having children
what they see within their circles. Ask lots of open-ended questions
require full sentence answers. Don't fall into the trap of asking
simple yes/no questions, like "Did you see an ant?" Instead,
longer responses with conversation starters like "Tell me
about something in
your circle that moved."
This activity also lends
itself to categorizing activities. Count flowers,
insects, pebbles, and so forth. Were there any manmade items
circle? What kinds? How did they get there? Discuss environmental
together with the kids as well. Are there signs of erosion or
damage to the
environment within the circle? What might be causing it?
Children may enjoy sketching
their more interesting finds. The search
through field guides for pictures that match plants and insects
will help young children to notice similarities and differences.
will benefit from doing more in-depth research to learn facts
finds. Venn Diagrams (You remember, those intertwining circles
list attributes of two things. You list the characteristics that
between the two items in the middle area where the two circles
and things that are unique about each thing in the outer parts
circle.) are a wonderful tool to help children notice similarities
differences. You can create Venn Diagrams that show comparisons
different magic rings, or between the observations of one ring
different time periods (morning and afternoon?) or two different
weather (sunny or cool and cloudy?). Also, don't forget to include
graphing activities to compare observed plants and animals in
rings. Even young children can create a simple bar graph by coloring
pasting one marker for each thing observed.
No matter what follow-up
or extension activities you choose to use, try
making "magic rings" with your kids soon. It's a super
way to build an
appreciation for the wonders of creation, and we all need reminders
time to time to notice the small miracles around us each and
is an educator, author and workshop facilitator. She resides
in southern Michigan with her husband and three daughters.
Sandy leads workshops for daycare providers and parents
in the region, tutors students, volunteers for Girl Scouts
and her church, and teaches online classes for adults and
children. She loves to make new friends, so please drop
her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org